By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Leave it to Blues coach Ken Hitchcock to liven up the banter that he and Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter have.
When asked the difference between he and Sutter, Hitchcock, who has the utmost respect for Sutter, said: "In the summer he talks to cows and I talk to golfers.
"Darryl's a helluva coach. ... Both of us have been able to create conflict. That's part of coaching. You get players to go into places they don't want to really go into or don't know how to go there and your job is to help them and along the way there's some conflict. But at the end of the day, the reward's worth it. Darryl's had success because of that formula and I've had success because of that formula."
Sutter got wind of Hitchcock's comment but wouldn't bite: "He's probably a good golfer, too. Good coach, I know that."
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The Blues, who enter tonight's Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the Kings with a 1-0 series lead, know they'll get a big push from the defending Cup champs.
"Same as we got last year, same as we got in the second half of the game (Tuesday)," Hitchcock said. "Our first game got their attention so I'm sure that we're going to get one of their better games so we've got to be ready for it."
Said Chris Stewart: "You've got to expect them to push us back. They're not going to just hand it to us. The more we get in their end and grind them down, it's only going to frustrate them more.
"I think we just can't react to it. You know they're going to come hard, you can't get frustrated. You can't retaliate or take a dumb penalty. I think you just match their intensity. They want to hit our best players, we can hit their best players, too. You just play like that. Everybody just digs in."
The Blues' intensity and compete level reaped the rewards from a solid April that ended 13-3-0 (including Tuesday's series-opener). But according to captain David Backes, it goes back beyond that.
"February-March, I think we've learned more than we did in April," Backes said. "Those are the learning lessons of buying in as a group and having 20 guys all on the same page. ... April's kind of the result and consequence of those lessons that we've learned. We'll need to bring another great effort tonight. One win, it's not over by any means. It's a seven-game series. We've got to win three more. We've got to stay on the gas and not take anything for granted.
"It took overtime to beat those guys with how good of an effort we had. It's finishing chances, it's competing all over the place and it's not getting distracted from our game plan."
The Blues know Game 1 shouldn't be a peak performance for them if they expect to win the series.
"If Game 1's the high water mark for us, it's not good enough," Hitchcock said. "It's not good enough to win the series. We're going to have to play better than we did in Game 1 if we expect to win the series. To me, it's just keep getting better. As long as you keep getting better, you push the competition out. If you stay the same or you go backwards, then the other team's going to have an advantage.
"We're dealing with the experienced team that knows how to win. They're not an old team, but they know how to win. They've been pushed to the limit and they've responded every time. Even when we lost four straight last year, I thought in three of the games, we pushed them right to the limit and they've responded. We're trying to gain that knowledge on the run here. The only way you can gain it is by playing better and better every night."
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Tonight's Game 2 will mark a first for Blues playoffs. The game will start at 8:30 p.m. (FSN, Y-98 FM) to accommodate national television, which will televise games from the Eastern Conference.
"Better not get to overtime or I'm going to be asleep on the bench," Hitchcock joked. "The gap from now until 8:30, there better be some good games on at 6 o'clock when we're sitting in the office twiddling our thumbs. It's a long, long day. I've never seen anything like this, so this will be interesting."
The Blues will not be traveling to Los Angeles until Friday morning, but for the Kings, they'll be leaving after the game tonight.
"You just have to throw the clock away and do it like it's game day and not even think about what time it is," Sutter said, who also joked about it. "I'm sure every team does it ... have their little team meeting at 7 o'clock.
"It's kind of odd. What it affects is the next part of it, the travel. We know we're getting home some time between 2:30 (a.m.) and 4:30 (a.m.). If there's three overtimes, we'll play two games tonight and you get home at 4:30. If you play one game tonight, we'll be home at 2:30. That's sort of the next part of it, how you recover for your next game."
Stewart said he'll have no issues with it.
"I'm known for my gameday naps," he said. "That certainly won't be a problem today. There's going to be plenty of time for that. It's going to be a late start, but it is what it is. Drink an extra Red Bull maybe, but that's about it."
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The Blues were surprisingly high on their faceoff percentage in the opener against one of the better faceoff teams in the league.
The Kings, who were 10th while the Blues were 13th in the regular season, were hitting at a 36 percent clip in the loss Tuesday night. The Blues' Andy McDonald won eight of nine (89 percent) and Backes won 14 of 20 (70 percent) to lead the way.
"We were surprised. We were good," Hitchcock said. "We've always been strong against them when we're on our natural side, but when we were on the opposite side, we won some of the faceoffs that normally we've lost against them. They've got guys that are good on both sides of the ice. This is the first time that we've been able to do that. I was pleasantly surprised by that."
None of the Kings' regular faceoff guys were at 50 percent other than Mike Richards, who was right at 50 percent (11 of 22).
"Other than Richie, it was the lowest percentage total we've had all year for a game," Sutter said. "When you count Jeff (Carter), you really have four veteran centermen in the lineup. They have to make that adjustment. Jarret was getting kicked out. It's an adjustment obviously. With them also, McDonald took a lot of faceoffs in that lineup. Usually there's two centermen on the ice for both teams. They've got to do a better job."
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The Blues' probable lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-David Backes-Alexander Steen
Andy McDonald-Vladimir Sobotka-Chris Stewart
David Perron-Patrik Berglund-T.J. Oshie
Adam Cracknell-Chris Porter-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Jordan Leopold-Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman-Roman Polak
Brian Elliott will get the start again tonight; Jaroslav Halak is the backup.
Healthy scratches include Kris Russell, Ian Cole, Scott Nichol, Jake Allen, Andrew Murray, Dmitrij Jaskin, Jeff Woywitka, Jani Hakanpaa, Taylor Chorney and Evgeny Grachev. Jamie Langenbrunner (hip) remains on injured reserve but is as close to 100 percent as an injured player can be.
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The Kings will have a few tweaks to their Game 2 lineup, but personnel remains the same:
Dustin Brown-Anze Kopitar-Justin Williams
Dwight King-Mike Richards-Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner-Jarret Stoll-Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford-Colin Fraser-Jordan Nolan
Robyn Regehr-Drew Doughty
Rob Scuderi-Slava Voynov
Jake Muzzin-Keaton Ellerby
Jonathan Quick gets the start in goal; Jonathan Bernier is the backup.
Healthy scratches will be Brad Richardson, Alec Martinez and Tyler Toffoli. Willie Mitchell (knee) remains on season-ending injured reserve. Matt Greene (undisclosed) is also injured.